Most international ATM/bank cards/credit cards will also work in the UK. However, always notify your bank before you begin using your cards, so that the transactions you make are not flagged as “suspicious activity.” If banks notice that someone in another country is making withdrawals from your account, they often assume your cards have been stolen and may cancel them to prevent fraud. Also, ensure that your PIN consists of a 4-digit number. If your PIN is 5 or more digits or a combination of letters, ask the bank to change it, as some ATMs only accept 4 digits and most keypads are not alphanumerical.
You should make sure you know your PIN before you travel, as it is often required both in shops, and to withdraw money.ATM machines can be found everywhere in the UK. Increasingly they are found in hotels, shops and nightclubs/bars. However, if you are planning to use one of these machines please be aware that you may incur high costs as they do charge commission fees. Machines should always tell you if you are going to be charged for the transaction. When using ATM machines it is important that you check in advance to ensure that they are not going to charge you for the transaction. Banks in the UK will not charge you any kind of transaction fee when using your card at their ATM. You may be charged a fee by your provider in your home country. At present customers of Bank of America have a relationship with Barclays Bank in the UK which allows account holders to withdraw cash with no fees at all.
Currency can be changed at a number of locations in London. A good source for the best rates of exchange is the Money Saving Expert website Travel Money Maximiser along with The Post Office and banks.
Understanding Chip & Pin
One of the first things people coming to the UK encounter is the difference between traditional swipe credit cards and the Chip & Pin system. Some ATMs and credit card machines will only take credit/debit cards with a chip. In the UK you are expected both with credit and debit cards to enter your 4 digit personal security code. Most places in tourist areas will understand that you do not have this function and therefore need to sign. You may however find that some smaller locations are unwilling to accept a signature for security reasons.
Tipping in the UK is very different to North America, and indeed to Europe. As a rule of thumb in the UK you can follow these guidelines;
Pubs- No need to tip unless you are in a formal sit down restaurant and someone takes your order at the table.
Bars- No tip required
Taxi- This is subjective. Some people tip and others do not. If you do wish to tip then rounding up is fine.
Restaurants- Always check your bill! In some cases, particularly where there are more than 5 or 6 of you, they will add service automatically. If not then between 10 and 12.5% is the norm. If the service is not great then you do not need to tip, or to justify why you have not tipped.
The UK use the pound, not the Euro as many people think. We are part of the EU, but not part of the European Monetary Union. We work in pounds and pence. 1 pound is divided up into 100 pence. You will find the following coins and notes in circulation: 1p coin 2p coin 5p coin 10p coin 20p coin 50p coin £1.00 coin £2.00 coin £5.00 note £10.00 note £20.00 note £50.00 note You may also find that you are given a different kind of note. Scotland has their own notes, and often you will be given Scottish £5.00 notes in your change. Don’t worry, they are still valid in England.
Banks are located everywhere in London. Most of them are open Monday-Friday 9.30am-5.00pm and some are open on Saturday morning. All banks are closed on Sundays.
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